Strength in Numbers
For more than a decade there has been a movement to create Professional Learning Communities or PLCs in schools. Advocated by many educators and conceived by Richard DuFour, PLCs represent a path to creating professional collaborative communities in schools, enabling teams of educators to review and discuss educational research and innovative ideas with a goal of creating a transformative environment truly serving the learner within the school community. What makes PLCs so important to school change is that they can create a process in which school constituents are meaningfully involved in and have direct ownership of the change process.
Unfortunately, schools tend to be conservative environments in which meaningful change can be slow in coming. But, now more than ever, the writing is on the wall. We know that schools no longer have a monopoly on knowledge. The world continues to interconnect rapidly and all of us including our students have unprecedented and unlimited access to an overabundance of knowledge and ideas in any discipline. Whether a student wants to learn about rocket science, neurology or jazz improvisation, a vast array of resources are readily available online.
Our challenge is to transform our institutions to truly meet the needs of the 21st Century learner. This means empowering and guiding learners to unleash the power of the many digital tools at their disposal. Maintaining the industrial model of education in our schools, in which students play an essentially passive role in the learning process is no longer an option. Schools will either change or become irrelevant!
As mentioned above, change is slow in schools, but I would argue that the very technology that is pounding on the doors of our schools can also help educational leaders accelerate the change process. One cause of slow change in schools, is that just as teachers have been traditionally isolated from each other, so too have our schools. However, we have the means through technology to break down the physical limitations between our schools.
If we are attempting to implement meaningful change, whether it be online learning, one to one laptop programs, project base-learning, collaborative teaching or flexible schedules, school leaders have many potential allies across the globe. There is strength in numbers! If we can identify other schools that are also in the process of implementing board-based transformation or a specific change initiative, we have the ability to share our experiences and to support each other. Just as educators within a particular school PLC will collaborate and be empowered to change the “system,” so too can schools find each other to collaborate, share ideas and change together.
The more collaborative connections and support networks we can create amongst schools, the more convincing our local change initiatives will become.